Re: Threats to and harassment of Marcelino Altamirano, coordinator of La Casita del Puente Afectivo and human rights defender
To: Ing. Roberto Raul Iglesias, Governor of Mendoza Province and Dr. Leopoldo Manuel Orquin, Minister of Justice and Security and Sr. Jorge Poblete, President of the Rights and Guarantees Commission (Chamber of Deputies)
From: Jenna Virk, LRWC member
Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (“LRWC”) is a commitee of Canadian lawyers providing support internationally to lawyers and other human rights advocates whose rights, safety, or independence are threatened as a result of their human rights advocacy.
LRWC is concerned about the safety of Macelino Altamirano, the coordinator of the La Casita del Puente Afectivo street children’s home. Mr. Altamirano has been harassed on several occasions and received threatening phone calls because of his work as a human rights defender.
We understand from Amnesty International that on August 29, 2003 Mr. Altamirano’s car was set on fire near La Casita children’s home. We also understand that there were 5 children sleeping in a room that was only a few metres from the car. LRWC is gravely concerned about the escalation of violence toward Mr. Altamiro. We fear for both his safety and the safety of the children under his care.
LRWC understands from Amnesty International that many street children in Mendoza are subject to threats and violence from police and that Mr. Altamirano defends the rights of these street children. He has spoken on local television programs about the mistreatment of these children by the police department in the city of Mendoza. LRWC understands that other human rights defenders in Mendoza have experienced similar threats against their personal safety.
LRWC is aware that Argentina recently revoked the immunity granted to members of the military who participated in torture, murder and other atrocities during the “dirty war” of the late 1970s and early 1980s. We congratulate you on taking such action toward justice for the victims of these horrific crimes.
We hope that you will act quickly to protect both Mr. Altamirano and the children for whom he advocates by ensuring that the fire set to Marcelino Altamirano’s vehicle and the threats against him are investigated and the perpetrators identified through prosecution and trial. We also request that your government immediately put in place protection that is adequate to secure both the safety and the independence of Mr. Altamirano and other human rights defenders at risk.
Failure to protect and investigate violations of the rights of Marcelino Altamirano and other human rights workers constitutes an egregious breach of Argentina’s duties under binding international laws and principles including those set out by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organizations to promote and protect Universally recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Argentina is a signatory, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Argentina’s duties to guarantee the physical safety of these people and to investigate and punish violations also arise from membership in the Organization of American States (OAS) and the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights.
Please advise LRWC by mail, e-mail or fax of the actions that the government of Argentina is taking to:
1. Ensure the present and future safety of Marcelino Altamirano and the street children under his care,
2. Investigate the threats against him and other human rights defenders with the goal of identifying the persons responsible and bringing them to trial.
LRWC awaits your response. Thank you for your attention to our concerns.